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Tue, Feb. 18

Marley House offers comfort for the final passage

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Kevin and Louise Richards in the library at The Good Samaritan Society’s Marley House Tuesday afternoon in Prescott.

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Kevin and Louise Richards in the library at The Good Samaritan Society’s Marley House Tuesday afternoon in Prescott.

PRESCOTT - Sitting in a pair of striped parlor chairs across from a brick fireplace and bookshelves in the Good Samaritan Society's Marley House library, Kevin and Louise Richards smile with memories of Kevin's 90-old father, who spent his final days in this 5-year-old, 10-patient room hospice home.

Even when he could no longer speak, his father, Floyd E. Dick, kept his friendly, sometimes frisky, sense of humor, Kevin said. He made a pinching gesture when told his care team was four female nurses.

Never did his caregivers treat Dick as a dying medical patient, his son said. At all times, Dick was treated with utmost dignity; his doctors, nurses and visiting volunteers all talked to him as if he were "fully cognizant."

Marley House staff treated Dick like a cherished father or grandfather until his last breath on Dec. 30, 2014, Kevin said.

"They weren't just professional, they were personal," said Richards, noting the family asked the hospice to keep Dick comfortable but without medication beyond what he needed to remain pain-free. "For them, it wasn't just a duty. It was a service; an expression of their love of humanity."

Everything about Marley House is intended to offer calm comfort to patients and their families as they approach the end of their life journey, say the staff, donors and patient families.

A small chapel sits just off the main entrance on Ruth Street with a stained-glass front door and windows for those who wish a time for prayer or solitude or who wish to reserve it for a loved one's memorial service. The Good Samaritan Society is part of the Evangelical Lutheran faith, but patients of all faiths and backgrounds are welcome, staff assured.

All patients are given a comfort pack when they arrive that includes their own pair of fitted pajamas or nightgown; no standard-issue, open-back hospital gowns. Volunteers donate hand-made bed and lap quilts. All of the patient rooms are equipped with a mounted television and an overstuffed, fabric fold-out chair for family who wish to stay overnight. Patients' medical treatment is interspersed with such services as therapeutic massage and music therapy.

The average stay at Marley House is usually no more than a week, although there are patients whose symptom management may require longer stays, explained Marley House Supervisor Rachel Coons, a registered nurse whose own 84-year-old grandfather, Joe Morris, a hospice patient, shaped her future career. The age range of patients is from the early 30s to 104, she said.

Marley House accepts private medical insurance, and Medicare payments. However, for those who are underinsured or uninsured, the Good Samaritan Society established a $1 million Compassionate Care Fund to help cover their hospice care expenses.

Beyond patient care, families are given access to a private dining room, as well as a kitchen area where they can store snacks and food.

Kevin and Louise recalled a night when their family gathered around the dining room table to share a meal prepared by one of their neighbors. It was a time they were able to reminisce about Dick's life and confront the coming bereavement process.

Marley House clinical staff, counselors and volunteers all work closely with the family to help them prepare for and cope with the dying and grief processes. Marley House stays in touch with family for up to six months after the death of their loved one.

"It was a wonderful gift to our family," Richards said.

Each patient room also has a patio overlooking the city's picturesque desert landscape.

"If someone's dying wish is to die in the sunshine, we can make that happen," Coons said.

For the Kevin and Louise, Marley House offered them and their beloved family member a perfect setting for this final life transition.

"His life didn't end. He completed his life," Louise Richards said.

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter@HutsonNanci Reach her at 928-445-3333 Ext. 2041 or 928-642-6809

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